Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola insists mind games have never been part of his managerial make-up.
The build-up to City’s trip to Liverpool on Sunday has been spiced up by comments from Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp claiming the visitors benefited from “a two-week break for Covid reasons” over Christmas.
Guardiola expressed surprise at the remarks because, despite having a strong rivalry at the top of Premier League in recent years, the pair have always seemed quite respectful of each other.
“I didn’t expect it, not from him,” said Guardiola before adding he would speak to the German to clarify the situation after the game at Anfield.
The previously good relationship between Guardiola and Klopp contrasts to some of the game’s bitter managerial rivalries of the past, which have often involved pointed comments or ‘mind games’.
Guardiola said: “I am not judging what the other managers said, what they comment. What Jurgen said, the purpose I don’t know, I will ask him on Sunday.
“Sometimes we do that. It is difficult for managers right after the finish of the game, when five minutes later, and you are so excited for the good thing or bad thing, you have to say in a microphone your opinions about decisions. It is not easy.
“But, here, before – when relaxed at a press conference, I never did it. Or maybe I did it once or twice for an exceptional reason but not to propose (mind games).
“All I am concerned about is the game, what we have to do to beat the opponents. Sometimes I did it, I have to admit, but that was a mistake.”
Guardiola claims complaining about incidents or other issues rarely works out positively.
“It is finding excuses,” he said. “I say to my players when you complain you find an excuse and when you have excuses you cannot move forward. Excuses are the worst thing in football and sport.”
City can move 10 points clear of champions Liverpool, with a game in hand, by winning this weekend.
That will be Guardiola’s clear aim, even though a draw would also be a good result at this stage of the season.
Guardiola said: “Never ever in my career as a manager have I prepared a team to draw a game. Never ever.
“Never expect a mistake from the opponent. I try to do the game to create the problems for the opponent.
“Sometimes it is not possible, sometimes the opponent is better, sometimes with 10 minutes left it is impossible to score and a draw is better but, in advance, no way.”